The protesters of Spokane’s youth-led Climate Strike on Sept. 20 demanded to be heard, and on Wednesday, the candidates in Spokane’s 2019 municipal elections are coming to Gonzaga University to speak on and listen to the debate of climate change.
GU’s environmental studies department is teaming up with environmental-activist organizations 350 Spokane, the Lands Council, Spokane Riverkeeper, Community Building Foundation and Futurewise to put on the Spokane Candidate Climate Change Forum (C3 Forum).
This event will bring together candidates for Spokane mayor, City Council president and City Council representatives to share with voters their views on global warming and how they would represent their constituents if elected. This is the first C3 Forum, and it will take place in the Globe Room of Cataldo Hall at 5:30 p.m.
According to Brian Henning, the chair of environmental studies and a founding member of the local climate action group 350 Spokane, so far, six of the 10 candidates for local office have agreed to attend the forum: Ben Stuckart (mayoral candidate), Breean Beggs (City Council president candidate), Michael Cathcart (District 1 City Council candidate), Lori Kinnear and Tony Kiepe (District 2 City Council candidates) and Karen Stratton (District 3 City Council candidate). Only Cindy Wendle, a hopeful for City Council president, has directly declined the invitation. GU and the Logan Neighborhood fall into District 1.
“Mayoral candidate, Nadine Woodward, has refused to even respond to our invitation to attend and she has steadfastly refused to answer any questions related to her views on climate change,” Henning said.
In the few short weeks leading up to the local elections on Nov. 5, the local climate action groups behind the event are dedicated to raising awareness on the urgent threat of climate change to voters and candidates.
Trenton Miller, a board member of 350 Spokane and GU alumnus, stressed the severity of this year’s elections: “[Voters] will be deciding five out of eight possible seats in the city’s governance, and the decisions made this year will stick with us until 2023,” Trenton Miller, a board member of 350 Spokane said. “Some recent scientific studies on climate change emphasize a window of opportunity for drastic action that is growing smaller by the day.”
In the rising conflict that is global warming, the effects are starting to show up in political discussion.
“For the first time in our nation’s history, polling has climate change among the top issues defining our national presidential election,” Henning said.
According to a survey conducted by Yale in 2018, 69% of Spokane County residents believe that climate change is a real threat. This belief may directly impact voters' decisions.
“Events like the Spokane Climate Strike and the C3 Forum demonstrate that people in Spokane are fed up with inaction on the part of their elected officials,” Henning said. “Democracy only works if voters are informed and if they vote.”
“Elected officials at every level can form and pass legislation to shape and mitigate the negative impacts of global warming,” Laura Ackerman with the Lands Council said. “State and local elected officials are really crucial and are increasingly taking the lead in environmental and justice issues.”
Even though not all GU students can vote in Spokane’s municipal elections, Miller doesn’t discourage students from attending the event.
“The ability for students to organize, advocate and gather political power is essential in any movement,” Miller said. “The youth today will inherit the world of tomorrow and Gonzaga students have a larger stake in what the future looks like than the majority of Spokane voters.”
The forum is being held at GU, but the invitation for attendees extends beyond GU’s campus. The event is free and open to all.